The Two Boots StoryTwo Boots -- named for the geographical shapes of Italy and Louisiana -- was born in the East Village, at 37 Avenue A, on June 24th, 1987. Original partners Doris Kornish & Phil Hartman (indie filmmakers who loved Cajun food and culture - Phil having opened the Great Jones Café, a Cajun juke joint, in 1983), teamed up with local developer John Touhey, to create the original Two Boots Restaurant, a family-friendly, full-service restaurant specializing in Cajun-Italian cooking.
The immediate success of Two Boots can be traced to a slew of small miracles: we inherited beautiful, indestructible terrazzo floors from the long-gone Red Lantern Restaurant; our vintage nail-head chairs were a last-minute find on The Bowery; our lovely pink and green tabletops were a black market score from a vintage formica dealer (thank you Suzanne of Second Hand Rose!). The Two Boots menus were graced with illustrations from the illustrious George Schneeman; our store managed by the amazing Lynn Loflin of Monroe, Louisiana; our pizza station manned by rock stars Santo Fazio and Kevin Karam; our bar and floor run by man-myth Kirby and brother Jesse Hartman, who’d go on to fame with Sammy and Laptop; and our core servers broke all kinds of restaurant records for durability and devotion -- five years together as a group in a high-turnover industry! -- thank you Emily Spray, Marilyn Gold, Darya Panesoff, Lisa Bowman, Mary Hebert and Jessica Gandolf. It definitely took this entire village to raise our restaurant.
It soon became apparent that the original restaurant space couldn’t handle all the demand for our unique cornmeal crust pizza, so in 1989, Two Boots To Go, a slice and delivery branch opened across the street; this was soon followed by another full-service location, Two Boots Brooklyn, in Park Slope, under separate -- and very successful -- management by Mr. Touhey (and his partners Piper and Andy Wandzilak).
Pushing west, Two Boots To Go-Go opened at 74 Bleecker Street (near Broadway) in 1992, followed, in 1995, by Two Boots To Go West, at the corner of 7th Avenue & West 11th Street. Meanwhile, Two Boots operated on-site concessions in Central Park for Summerstage and began a long stint as the concessionaire for Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park.
Back in the East Village, Two Boots To Go moved to larger quarters in the fall of 1996, at Avenue A & East 3rd Street. This would soon grow to include Two Boots Video, specializing in independent and foreign films, the Den of Cin, a screening room/performance space/lounge, and later, in 2000, The Pioneer Theater, a 100 seat movie house for first-run alternative and art films.
Two Boots finally crossed 14th Street in 2000, opening a full-service restaurant with a full bar, in the newly-renovated Grand Central Station’s Lower Dining Concourse; a smaller outlet opened in Rockefeller Center in 2001.
Phil has been the sole owner since 2005, but Doris Kornish’s legacy at Two Boots lives on in the amazing collage counters which she created at the original Avenue A restaurant; the mosaics and frescos she commissioned from the great George Schneeman; the panoramic photo lamps she collaborated on with esteemed filmmaker Morris Engel; and her spirit of adventure and iconoclasm which is infused into the Two Boots DNA.
Recent years have seen a growth spurt for Two Boots: uptown stores in Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper West and Upper East Sides, a full-service, live music branch in Bridgeport, Ct., two locations in Los Angeles (Echo Park & Downtown), a pizzeria in Baltimore (at the juncture of the University of Baltimore and MICA), a full service restaurant in the Hudson Valley (near Bard College) and licensees/local partners in Jersey City, NJ; Nashville, Tenn.; Brooklyn, NY; and at Citi Field, with the Mets.
Two Boots continues to grow while striving to maintain its idiosyncratic style and commitment to the community, supporting over thirty arts organizations, plus countless schools and social service agencies. Acclaimed as the best slice of pizza in the best pizza town in the world, Two Boots has become, as Time Out New York, put it “not just a restaurant, but a genuine NYC institution.” We remain proud of our East Village roots, and proud to be bringing our unique Cajun-Italian cooking -- and karma -- to the rest of the world.
MEET PHIL HARTMAN, OWNER OF TWO BOOTS
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Phil Hartman attended Princeton University, where he founded the P.U. Film Society, graduated magna cum laude, received The Daily Princetonian Award as the school’s outstanding contributor, and felt utterly out of place amidst the eating clubs and alligator shirts. His semester “abroad,” however, was spent in upstate New York at Bard College, an institution to which he remains eternally devoted.
Part-penance, part-mortification, Phil then headed to Akron, Ohio, post-college, where he learned how to slice corned beef (against the bias) and both his thumbs (go to work stoned). He then returned to his job at Cinemabilia, the legendary movie bookshop and punk rock breeding ground; crewed on a porno film as head of the ‘creams & jellies’ dept.; and sold six screenplays, including several to producers at Warner Bros. When “Bleeding Heat,” a punk rock detective story set in gritty Long Island City, was reconceived as a romp for The Doobie Bros., he decided he’d rather open a restaurant with his high school friend, Rich Kresberg, than compromise his writing for money (unless, of course, it had been for a lot of money). Their Bowery juke joint, the Great Jones Cafe, opened in 1983 and became a phenomenon -- helping to start the Cajun cooking craze in NYC, serving as a hangout for the indie film community, and still flourishing at 54 Great Jones St.
The success of the Jones gave Phil the opportunity to write and direct his first film, No Picnic, produced by Doris Kornish, and it was accepted to the Sundance Film Festival -- if only they could find the money to finish post-production…
Then in the fall of 1986, a total stranger, local developer John Touhey, came into the Great Jones, told Phil that he’d just bought the lease to a defunct space on Avenue A, and asked: would he be interested in helping him open a new restaurant? Doris joined with Phil and they agreed to spend six months “to get it started” in exchange for enough money to finish their film.
No Picnic wound up winning the “Best Cinematography Award” at Sundance, and was hailed in the Village Voice “the one movie about the East Village that gets it right.” Featuring Peter Hutton’s luminous black and white photography, starring Dave Brisbin, and with cameos by Steve Buscemi, Richard Hell and Luis Guzman, No Picnic screened at MoMA, played at festivals around the world, and premiered at Anthology Film Archives in NYC.
Meanwhile, back in the restaurant world, Phil & Doris came up with the idea to combine Cajun cooking and pizza, and Two Boots opened on June 24th, 1987, along a then-desolate stretch of Avenue A. It quickly became apparent that the six months to “help get it started” would snowball into much much more -- the unique cornmeal-crust pizza, funky folk-art decor and family-friendly service was an immediate hit, and new branches would eventually open across Avenue A, in Noho and in the West Village.
Phil continued to write screenplays, including “The Beaten Track,” about a battered woman on the run from Omaha to Albuquerque; “Born at Woodstock,” about the two children conceived at the festival, twenty years later; “The Man With A Shattered World,” transposing A.R. Luria’s classic memory study, “The Mind of a Mnemonist,” to the Caribbean-American community; and “Tales of Beatnik Glory,” fusing Ed Sanders’ Lower East Side memoirs with the Tompkins Square Riots. Then in 1995, Phil wrote and directed his second feature, Eerie, starring Felicity Huffman, Will Arnett and Luis Guzman -- an older woman/younger man search story, taking place almost entirely on the Erie Canal in upstate New York.
Soon after, to further sate their love of the movies, Phil & Doris opened a complex on Avenue A that included Two Boots Video, specializing in art and foreign cinema; The Den of Cin, a performance space and screening room; and The Pioneer Theater, a single screen jewel box that was renowned for saving Donnie Darko from obscurity, breathed new life into the tradition of midnight movies and was a national showcase for independent films.
The millenium brought further expansion for Two Boots -- uptown to Grand Central Station, then to the rest of Manhattan and beyond, to the entire NYC metropolitan area. There were missteps along the way -- Rock Center was too corporate and Power Plant Live too seedy -- but the Two Boots gospel would eventually stretch across the country, and include huge successes in Los Angeles, Nashville and Baltimore. Over 4,000,000 slices of our unique cornmeal crust pizza are now served every year, and each branch of Two Boots aims to set down deep roots in the community, to become, as Time Out New York put it, “not just a restaurant, but a genuine cultural institution.”
Phil still mulls whether to make movies or make pizza, and is currently in pre-production for a new film, “A Day At The Beach.” A long-time resident of the Lower East Side, Phil has created the Two Boots Mardi Gras Ball, an annual benefit for the Lower Eastside Girls Club; the Downtown Historic Plaque Program, a collaboration with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation; the HOWL! Festival, a celebration of the legacy of the counterculture; and the East Village Softball Association, which provides a judgment-free field of dreams for a rag-tag group of artists and outcasts. For his contributions to the community, Phil has been honored by P.S. 122, the LES Girls Club and The Little Missionary School, but his greatest joy has been to parent to his three children, Leon, Odetta and Camellia, all LES-born and bred.
He’s also a long-suffering Mets fan (is there any other kind?).
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIESWe are always searching for wonderful people to become a piece of the pie! If you are curious about working with our team, poke around this website to learn about us, or click the following link to apply.
TWO BOOTS JOB OPPORTUNITIES
PRESS KITComing Soon!